‘Rafale documents cited by Prashant Bhushan were stolen from Defence Ministry’: Govt tells SC
- TEAM PT
‘Rafale documents cited by Prashant Bhushan were stolen from Defence Ministry’: Govt tells SC



KK Venugopal, Attorney General of India on Wednesday told the Supreme Court, which is hearing review petitions in the Rafale deal case, that certain documents pertaining to the purchase of the fighter jets have been stolen from the defence ministry.
 
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph began the open court hearing during which former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition, alleged that the Centre suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs against the Rafale deal in December.
 
Venugopal objected to the arguments made by lawyer Prashant Bhushan when he started reading out from a note in the Supreme Court. Bhushan argued that the Supreme Court would not have dismissed the plea seeking probe into the Rafale deal case had "critical facts” were not suppressed by the government.

KK Venugopal told the court that the documents relied upon by advocate Prashant Bhushan were stolen from defence ministry by "present or former employees”. "These documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry either by former or present employees. These are secret documents and can't be in the public domain," KK Venugopal told the court, representing the central government.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi questioned what action the government had taken.

"We are investigating how these documents were stolen," said the centre, accusing The Hindu newspaper of relying on these classified documents.

"It is a criminal offence. We are objecting preliminary because secret documents can't be annexed with the petition. Review and perjury petitions must be dismissed," said the Attorney General.
 
The attorney general argued that the notes published in a newspaper and annexed in the review petition are "privileged” and cannot be taken note of. He said the court is dealing with defence purchases that involve security of the country.
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The attorney general also told the Supreme Court that the Rafale case pertains to defence procurement which cannot be reviewed judicially. 
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"Recent incidents have shown how sensitive it is so far as defence purchases are concerned…Such a scrutiny will affect future purchases. Countries would be hesitant before entering. They would say we would have to pass hurdles of parliament and TV channels and finally the court,” said Venugopal against the review petitions in Rafale deal case.
 
The AG submitted that the documents on the deal relied on by the petitioners were marked secret and classified and are therefore in violation of the Official Secrets Act. 

The attorney general also told the Supreme Court that the Rafale case pertains to defence procurement which cannot be reviewed judicially. 

Referring to the aerial combat with Pakistan last week, he said the country needs the Rafale jet to defend itself "from F-16 fighter planes that recently bombed us". 

"Without Rafale how can we resist them," he said, adding that two squadrons of Rafale fighter jets are coming in flyaway condition. The first one will be in September this year.

The Hindu, in the latest in a series of reports on the Rafale deal - the 36-jet purchase agreement at the core of the opposition's allegations of massive corruption by the government - reports that the deal became more expensive for India because of France's refusal to provide bank guarantees. The newsbreak by N Ram, Chairman of The Hindu Publishing Group,  says the deal signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 for the aircraft and weapons packages for 36 fly-away Rafale fighter jets was more expensive by around Rs. 1,963 crore (Euro 246.11 million) than the estimated aligned cost of the 126 aircraft deal being negotiated by the previous Congress-led government.

The newspaper quotes a report of the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) to the defence ministry on July 21, 2016, and says it reveals how a parallel negotiating track weakened India's position and bolstered the French.
 
The Rafale deal ran into controversy after the opposition parties led by the Congress alleged irregularities in signing of the contract with the French company. Some people including Bhushan and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie moved the Supreme Court last year seeking independent probe into the Rafale deal.

The Supreme Court dismissed the pleas observing that due process was followed in signing the Rafale deal. The court also said that it did not find any "commercial favouritism” in the contract.
 
 
 

 

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